2011 ALDS: Previewing Doug Fister

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Five of the Yankees’ first eight picks in the 2005 draft have reached the big leagues, and one of those picks was Doug Fister. Taken in the sixth round out of Fresno State, Fister did not sign with New York and instead went back to school for his senior year. The Mariners took him in the seventh round the next year, and put him in their rotation three years later. Two years after that, they traded him to the Tigers. Two months after that, he’s starting Game Two One of the ALDS against the team that first drafted him.

Fister will inherit a somewhat unique situation following last night’s suspension, entering the second inning of a 1-1 game. The Tigers still have 24 defensive outs to get, the Yankees just 21. Let’s get to know the former Yankees’ draft pick…


A command and control monster, Fister posted a 57-5 K/BB ratio in 70.1 IP across ten starts (and one relief appearance) after the trade to Detroit. His 1.79 ERA with the Tigers is stellar, and his overall season numbers were very good: a 6.07 K/9 with a 1.54 BB/9 and a 47.5% ground ball rate. Fister doesn’t have much of a platoon split.

Pitch Selection

(via Texas Leaguers and FanGraphs)

A five-pitch pitcher with two different fastballs, the name of Fister’s game is contact and quick outs. Linear weights indicate that his two breaking balls are just a touch below-average, less than one-third of a run below-average for every 100 thrown. FanGraphs lumps the two fastballs together, but collectively they’re almost a full run better than average over the course of 100 pitches. The change is his most effective and also least used pitch, leading me to believe the linear weights data might be falling victim to some sample size noise.

The usage patterns indicate that Fister attacks all hitters generally the same way, just with a few more fastballs to righties and a few more changeups to lefties. The overall lack of swings and misses isn’t surprising considering how around the plate he is. Fister’s a huge dude (6-foot-8), and he gets good downhill plane on everything judging by the strong grounder rate.

Pitching Pattern

(via FanGraphs)

Another straight forward guy, Fister doesn’t pitch backwards as much as you might expect someone with his stuff to. He will get ahead with the fastball, but is just as likely to throw his slider as he is his curveball and changeup with one strike. The slider seems to be his go-to pitch with two strikes.

Extreme strike-throwers like Fister always throw a wrench into things because the Yankees can’t sit back and wait for him to paint himself into a corner. Well, they can do that, but they’ll be behind in the count before you know it, and that leads to defensive at-bats rather than aggressive attempts to do damage. Luckily, Fister will allow the Yankees to put the ball in play, and Detroit’s defense is nothing to write home about (especially in the outfield corners and at both short and first).

ALDS Game One suspended

(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

MLB exec Joe Torre announced that ALDS Game One has been suspended due to rain. The game will resume at 8:37pm ET on Saturday at the same point they left off tonight: tied at one in the middle of the top and bottom halves of the second inning. Game Two will be pushed back to Sunday at 3:07pm ET, so the teams lose that off day. Absolutely brutal.

The two clubs will use their Game Two starters tomorrow night (Ivan Nova and Doug Fister), and then their Game Three starters on Sunday (Freddy Garcia and Max Scherzer). Justin Verlander will start in the new Game Three on Monday, and CC Sabathia is likely to start that game as well. He threw 27 pitches tonight and intends to lobby for Sunday’s start.

The loss of the off day means the Yankees will need a fourth starter, and Joe Girardi indicated that he’s leaning towards A.J. Burnett for Game Four. Jim Leyland said that Rick Porcello will start a potential Game Four, and both teams would presumably bring back tomorrow’s starters for a potential Game Five on normal rest. Ken Davidoff says the teams will be allowed to revise their rosters, so the Yankees could choose to add Bartolo Colon if they want. There’s also the issue of bullpen rest now; forget about going nuts with Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera.

Tomorrow’s weather forecast calls for rain, and Torre indicated that MLB will consider a doubleheader if they have another delay/suspension  not allow a postseason doubleheader. Leyland doesn’t plan to make any immediate lineup changes even though they will no longer be facing a lefty on Saturday.

ALDS Game One: Tigers @ Yankees

Five years later, the Yankees will have their chance at revenge. The Yankees took Game One of the 2006 ALDS but fell flat the rest of the way, losing the next three. Alex Rodriguez infamously batted eighth in the fourth and final game.

Only a handful of players will play in this series after playing in that one, and most of them wear pinstripes. One of them played for the Tigers in 2006 and will play for the Yankees in 2011. Gone are the likes of Gary Sheffield, Bobby Abreu and Randy Johnson, replaced by Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and CC Sabathia. Joe Torre has been replaced by Joe Girardi, a manager that has guided his team to wins in four of his five playoff series. It’s not so much revenge as it is the start of a new rivalry between two clubs that figure to contend for many years to come. Here are the lineups…

Detroit Tigers
Austin Jackson, CF
Magglio Ordonez,  RF
Delmon Young, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Alex Avila, C
Ryan Raburn, 2B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Brandon Inge, 3B

Justin Verlander, SP

New York Yankees
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF

CC Sabathia, SP

It’s chilly and windy in New York, and there’s a chance of rain a little later tonight (around midnight or so). The game is scheduled to begin at 8:37pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on TBS and listen on either WCBS 880 or ESPN Radio. Remember, we’re trying to win a ring around here.

Recapping today’s content

It’s been a busy day, and the playoffs haven’t even started for the Yankees yet. Let’s take a second to recap all of the content from earlier today, just so no one misses anything…

2011 ALDS: Previewing The Tigers’ Bullpen

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

With all the talk about how great Justin Verlander is and how well Doug Fister has pitched since the trade to Detroit, it’s easy to forgot that those guys have combined for just seven complete games out of 65 starts. Someone has to pitch after they leave, and that’s who we’re going to look at now.

The Best Closer In Baseball*

Known more for his celebrations than for his actual performance, Jose Valverde had a very nice year but hardly a great one. He did strike out 8.59 batters for every nine innings pitched, but he also walked 4.23 during the same time interval. A 42.9% ground ball rate isn’t great but it’s doable given the strikeouts and his home park. A fastball-splitter pitcher, Valverde has a pretty significant reverse platoon split because he rarely throws the splitter to same-side hitters.

* Assuming you think going 49-for-49 in save chances is meaningful.

The Best Setup Man In Baseball**

The guy that started all the multi-year contract madness for free agent relievers last summer, Benoit rebounded from a terrible start (7.98 ERA as late as mid-May) to finish very well (1.36 ERA thereafter). His peripherals weren’t as strong this year (9.30 K/9 and 2.51 BB/9) as they were last year (11.19 and 1.64, respectively), but that’s not surprising. Tough to repeat that kind of performance. Benoit’s a fastball-changeup guy, which really isn’t all that different than fastball-splitter. He gives up a ton of fly balls  (38.9% grounders) and has a reverse split like Valverde, but it’s not nearly as pronounced. The Yankees saw plenty of Benoit with the Rays last year, so they know what’s up.

** Assuming you’re talking about 2010 and not 2011.

The Best Strikeout Reliever In Baseball***

If someone comes up from the minors and gives up 21 hits while striking out 67 in just 43.1 IP, you can bet they’ve pitched their way into high-leverage relief work. That’s exactly what Al Alburquerque has done, though he’s offset his sky-high strikeout rate (13.92 K/9) with an equally high walk rate (6.02 BB/9). He’s the Luke Gregerson of the AL, getting an absurd amount of swings and misses (15.5%) by throwing a ton of sliders (52.4%). Albuquerque hasn’t given up a run since the end of June, though there was a DL stint in July.

*** Unless you’re talking about guys that threw more than 43.1 IP.

The Rest

The Tigers are carrying a dozen pitchers on their playoff roster, including all five of their starters. Either Brad Penny (5.02 FIP) or Rick Porcello (4.06 FIP) will start Game Four while the other serves as the long man, so that means no Verlander on three days rest. Phil Coke (.215/.289/.295 vs. LHB) and Dan Schlereth (.174/.273/.256 vs. LHB) are the two lefties, Ryan Perry (3.94 FIP) the spare righty.

SWB Yanks will play 2012 home games in six locations

Via Danny Wild, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees will play their 2012 home games in six different locations: Rochester (37 games), Syracuse (ten), Lehigh Valley (eight), Batavia (seven), Buffalo (six), and Pawtucket (four). All those cities already house an International League franchise except for Batavia, which is home to an NY-Penn League affiliate. There’s only one way to describe this: absolutely brutal.

“We appreciate the support of the clubs who will host our 2012 game, and are looking forward with great anticipation to returning to Scranton Wilkes-Barre for the 2013 season,” said Brian Cashman. The SWB Yanks have to play on the road next year because PNC Field is undergoing major renovations, and a deal to play in Newark fell through because the Mets are jerks invoked territorial rights. You have to feel for guys like Austin Romine, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances; they basically won’t have a home park next year. Also have to wonder if the Yanks will have trouble signing free agents to minor league deals given the stadium situation in Triple-A.